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Aug 7, 2010 07:56 PM

"Fine Dining" in Philly, After Le Bec Fin

I had the pleasure of dining at Le Bec Fin four times. Each time with my wife. We always left feeling pampered. Like we could have been the only ones in the room. Of course the food was always tremendous. One meal I had there included a fish terrine and a duck dish with a black and white truffle sauce. Wonderful. But honestly as exceptional as the food could be it was still second to how we were made to feel there; which is to me essential to "fine dining". So where does one go in Philly anymore to get that feeling back?

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  1. For "grand-scale" fine dining, The Fountain Room in the Four Seasons hotel.

    For something more cozy and intimate, Vetri.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Philly Ray

      lacroix is my favorite place in the city. thought the food and experience is far superior there.

      1. re: Philly Ray

        Grand scale fine dining at the Fountain Room has my vote for sure. But what always impresses me is the genuine friendliness and courtesy of staff. They are there to make you feel welcome and comfortable, not just meet your needs.

        Anyone else here miss La Truffe? That was my favorite for relaxed fine dining.

        1. re: Philly Ray

          The former Chef at the Four Seasons, Martin Hamaan has moved over to the Union League. He has a new restaurant there called 1862. Although you have to be a member (or know one), I can honestly say the best fine dining I've had in Philadelphia in the last year has been there.

          1. re: adamtravia

            I second the opinion that 1862 is arguably the best "fine dining" restaurant in town. If you know anyone who belongs to the League, get them to take you there.

        2. Depends on one's definition of "fine" dining. In my view, this means a heavier emphasis than normal on service, possibly dining environment. In both of those regards, I find the Fountain far superior - in particular, a level of service was of a much higher grade than any of my experiences at Lacroix. The food at Lacroix is good - undeniably of a more progressive genre than that at the Fountain, but then again, the final call depends on our criteria.

          If we're talking strictly plate-wise - as a product of ambition and execution - nothing in my opinion comes close to Vetri. And with regards to Chinon's mention of "made to feel there" - I think that Vetri is the quintessential 'feel welcomed in our house' experience, while the Fountain always exuded the same warmth, in a more grandiose setting.

          To be real though, I couldn't think of another. One might conjecture that Nineteen belongs in this category based on its appearance but in my experience, the food is far behind. Of course, you also have a number of steakhouses (Capital Grille, Prime Rib, etc) but then again, you're merely talking steak. It's kind of sad that this city lacks more than a handful of those places that provide the type of feeling you speak of, Chinon...

          1 Reply
          1. re: ramenbound

            I guess I mean how the servers at Le Bec Fin would remove each guest's food dome simultaneously at the table. And afterward they'd rotate the plates so that the protein was positioned squarely in front of everyone. Or how the carpet felt and the chairs; roomy for a big guy like me; I could have taken a nap. And the dessert cart; which my wife had to be convinced more than once that yes she could have as much as she wanted.
            As for few "fine dining" places in town I think that Mr. Perrier said that in his estimation fewer and fewer people desired to eat "that way" anymore (i.e. three hour meal, sportscoat, etc). I kind of agree with that. Although we know more about higher end food these days (we still want truffles and foie gras) many of us would rather enjoy it in less formal atmosphere probably.

          2. This will probably be a minority view, but I never felt pampered at Vetri. We went there a few time; it's been a few years.
            The food was exceptional. I found the atmosphere rather "distant." I saw the owner and the manager come out and greet some people and chat with others, but we were never honored in that way. It was very quiet, rather formal - and maybe that's why I haven't been dying to go back, even with the marvelous food.

            Now when one goes to Bibou - a small, informal, terrific French bistro - one always feels welcomed. There is a happy feeling to it. The service, though very good, is probably not as polished, but the overall feeling makes me want to return. And I am obviously not the only one, since it is always difficult to get a reservation.

            We haven't been to the Fountain for years - maybe time to try again. I love Lacroix, especially for brunch, but the service at dinner was nothing special.

            It will be interesting to hear the other responses.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sylviag

              I have to agree with you Sylvia. I have been to Vetri several times over the years (most recently to use a wedding gift), and never been honored in that way. Marc Vetri does spend a lot of time with his friends and ignores others. I will say, though, that Jeff Benjamin was a terrific help with a barolo a few years back, opening it an hour in advance of our arrival at my request. Wonderful food. Somewhat distant atmosphere, as you say. We were treated beautifully at Bibou, by both the chef and his wife. Can't wait to go back. Another place that makes me feel welcome is Gilmore's in West Chester. Both the chef and his wife (who runs the front of the house) always make us feel welcome. That is important, no matter how highly touted the food.

              1. re: JanR

                Jan, thanks for telling me about Gilmore's. We've never been there, and now we will put it on our list.